In late-fall / early winter every year, Amazon hosts 50,000 plus developers, systems, dev-ops professionals and technology decision makers for AWS: Reinvent. AWS (Amazon Web Services) is the arm of Amazon that sells platform and technology services to businesses looking to use Amazon's cloud infrastructure for app, web app and online service delivery. Each year, Amazon adds over a hundred pr.... vertical markets ... technical debt reduction .... scalable solutio......[snore] ZZzzzzzzZzzzz Zzzzz ZzzZzz.
I've been to this conference a few times. Vegas is an expensive town and I'm not much of a gambler but each time I've been I've tried to build in some arcade and pinball discovery in the afternoons and evenings, when off the clock, so to speak. Although this year, the arcade and classic gaming motif was felt more in the AWS Event itself than previous years.
AWS: Reinvent is massive, in terms of scale. The conference lasts all week and more-or-less subsumes the Vegas strip. There are two keynotes in the week, the primary keynote venue houses probably around 10,000 people and there are overflow viewing areas at each participating major resort that will hold about half that, each.
As an engineer that has worked for numerous start-up sized companies, I can say that I'm largely pretty cynical about the exhibitor floors of these shows. I worked for a company years ago that had a fully stocked kitchen of snacks and goodies (soda, energy drinks, sugary pastries and other goodies) and an even more stocked room full of conference swag (pedometers, shirts, hats, mouse pads, gadget-du jour, which these days would take the forms of drones, Nintendo Switches or iPads. That same company, couldn't always make payroll in regards to the engineering staff and contractors...
But, I digress. Hopefully these guys have their houses in order. :)
One vendor went so far as to build demos of their product into arcade cabinets and port a version of Pacman over on a few of the cabinets. "Cloud Crunch" - to exhibit all of the security goodness they could bring to your cloud infrastructure.
(I guess, I really still don't fully know what they actually *do* over at CTP.)
Notice they even went with Arcadey - Family Fun Center styled carpet. (above)
The controls on the arcade cabinet themselves were pretty crappy (below) - I think they were loose mounted in the cabinet.
Their leaderboard was used to control the output of swag. I only played once but held first place for the better part of the day with my freshman effort. For my efforts, a pretty decent Patagonia pull-over.
Those hoping this acronym is a reference to the venerable David Hasselhoff will be disappointed but maybe otherwise delighted to learn it is the Pinball Hall of Fame, aka The Las Vegas Pinball Museum.
I walked through the PHOF with my phone on a facebook live broadcast. Unfortunately the iOS version of the facebook app ignored my preference to save the 4k version to my camera roll, so I'm stuck with this version, which was downloaded from Facebook after the fact.
Sadly, these classic EMs and early Solid States were not getting much play, as is the case every time I've been to the PHOF. I wish I had time to come and just work my way down these rows and learn to appreciate the bits of character that each of these machines have.
Mostly pins (of all eras) but some arcades on the backwall, too.
PHOF has an excellent range of eras represented in their lineup from modern LCD games, through B/W DMD games and back to EM Classics. They were all reasonably well maintained and along the back of the building, an employee worked on an STTNG while listening to an audiobook. There were very few people in the place and there almost never is when I go in the Winter months. There was one etiquette-challenged older gent that was playing more than one game at a time and draping his jacket over 1-2 nearby games not in play and challenged me over recording the video walkthrough. I offered to play him a round and he chose the new Star Wars. I won and we had a fun conversation about pinball during the game.
For some strange reason, the most interesting machine at PHOF to me is this awesome popcorn vending machine. I want one!
Have Quarters, Will Uber
Last year, when I was on my way out from Vegas - waiting on my flight, I remember reading about Fremont Arcade on Pinside. I was bummed because the OP of that post had posted all sorts of promising pictures of the line up at these neat arcade down in Old Vegas / Fremont.
This year I made it a point to go check it out.
Unfortunately, instead of a promising line up of pins, I found the pretty typical modern card-based almost-redemption arcade with the exception of the 5 Stern games pictured here.
The pins were all well-maintained but the volume was down and even in the empty arcade you couldn't hear them.
The Big Apple Arcade @ New York, New York
I ventured over to Big Apple Arcade located inside of the New York, New York Casino.
Here, I was impressed and spent more of my arcade dollars than probably at an other location in Vegas. A nice layout of modern pins, each properly set up and well-maintained..
Speaking of Star Wars, it was nice to get the opportunity to spend more time with an updated Star Wars Battle Pod. Even though I built a redneck equivalent, I sure do enjoy this game.
On my way out of New York, New York, the Bally logo of a slot machine caught my eye and sort of develops a lump in my throat as to what might have been had Bally stayed in it, making Pinball after 2000.
Zero Latency VR at MGM
In MGM, they've set up a pretty sweet full-suite VR experience called Zero Latency VR. It is similar, though probably not quite as good as The Void. While we were there, the options were a Halo-styled space combat sim and a Zombie battle style sim.
We opted for the space-sim, since the zombie genre is well covered in the PS4 and Vive VR offerings. The gameplay last about 1/2 hour (for about $50/person). The resolution of the experience wasn't 4k but the effect was quite good. On more than one occasion I found myself reaching for a virtual-only cover (a crate) in the environment, to hoist over and shoot at the alien boss. Therein lay the hack. You can clip in the environment by nestling yourself inside parts of the environment. :)
I could see a version of this with practical trip-hazards that are represented in 3D space, virtually - as being pretty awesome. Me, I'm glad I got to play it and I'm definitely looking forward to trying out other full-suit VR experiences.
Closing Night, the AWS: Reinvent, Re:Play Party
The last night of AWS: ReInvent, Amazon sets up three football-field-length structures in the parking lot of The Linq and throws one hell of a nerd party. The middle structure had a bad with EDM, House type coding music blaring to an impressive laser light show. The right-most structure included physical activities, like nerf bow-and-arrow in paintball gear - type battles, adult bouncy castles, etc. The left-most structure was packed full of classic arcades, a dome VR experience, foosball, airhockey and all sorts of gaming awesomeness.
Quick, shaky cam walk through to show the retro gaming goodness going on in one of the structures.
Of the classic arcades, some impressive collector titles were on the floor
The center structure of the three structure layout included a stage, lightshow, food, booze and tunes..
I thought the lighting assembly was impressive, especially considering this was a temporary structure!
By the end of the week, it was time to relax atop the balcony at Twin Peaks and bid Las Vegas farewell. I attended 3 to 5 sessions each day and filled the evenings as best I could think to with arcadey and pinball fun, not the most risqué activities available in Vegas but these are the ones that interested my inner arcade nerd. :)